DIY is a phrase you usually associate with decorating, crafts or home repair, but do you have the guts to take on a do-it-yourself wedding? With Denise Vivaldo’s comprehensive guide “Do it for Less! Weddings: How to Create your Dream Wedding without Breaking the Bank” (Sellers Publishing, $19.95) you’ll have the confidence and know-how to pull it off.
“If you have the resources to get trained white doves to coo Barry Manilow hits for your ceremony, it can be arranged,” Vivaldo said. “But not if you’re on a budget and would still like to have the wedding of your dreams–and have money left over for a fabulous honeymoon.”
Vivaldo covers every aspect of your big day, from choosing the location to saving money on invitations, flowers, gifts, music and photography. And yes, even money-saving ideas for your wedding cake, recipes included.
“People make themselves crazy when they plan a wedding,” said Vivaldo, a classically trained chef and caterer, whose company, the Denise Vivaldo Group, specializes in recipe development, consulting, and food styling for photography and television. With “Do-It For Less! Weddings” this seasoned professional, who has catered 10,000 parties (serving the likes of the George H.W. Bushes, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Bette Midler and Prince Charles), reveals her tricks of the trade for everything from planning the menu to napkin folding.
“I wrote this book so people could do weddings at home and avoid all the high costs,” she explained. “All the recipes are written in quantities, so that even your sister, mom, cousin or friend could cook. And I’m happy to report many brides have written me to say they successfully catered their own wedding and saved a bundle.”
Using a caterer? See Vivaldo’s ten tips for a successful relationship with your caterer, including how to work with a caterer and stay within your budget. Can you supply some of the food items to bring costs down? Do they provide a tasting of their menu or recommendations? Professional caterers still too expensive? Try to enlist the help of students at the local culinary schools, she suggests. Determined to supply the food yourself with the help of friends or relatives? Throw a food preparation party instead of a shower or bachelorette party.
The recipe section includes eight original seasonal weddings: Sunrise Brunch, In Full Bloom, Waterside Jewels, Sunset Cocktail Party, French Countryside Dinner, Amber Nights, Winter Wonderland and Island Spice–including do-it-yourself themed decorating ideas and complete menus and recipes as well as shopping lists and menu countdowns for budgeting your time.
“People are not used to cooking in quantities,” she added “It freaks them out to see how much food they’ve got. Is it enough? It is too much?” This book eliminates the guesswork with recipes given in chart form for 12, 25, 50 or 75 guests. “Remember, the more things you have on the menu, the smaller the portions you need to serve,” she said. There is even a beverage chapter that takes all the guesswork out of choosing wine and offers serving quantities for a full or partial bar.
Another real cost saver, she suggests, is renting the wedding gown. “It’s only one day, and if you buy a dress, you will lug it around forever but never wear it again. By renting it you’ll have pictures of yourself in a gorgeous dress. Do you have to own it?”
“I tell brides and grooms, put your best energy into making a memorable day with each other. I see young couples spending too much money and not enough time really appreciating each other. Flowers, a fancy cake and a full bar do not make for a long-term marriage, but love and understanding do.”
Roasted Salmon with Lemon-Almond Pesto
Chicken breasts make an inexpensive substitute for the salmon and work well with the pesto, suggests Vivaldo.
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil, divided
4 pounds salmon, whole sides with skin on
Sea salt to taste
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
4 lemons, cut into wedges for garnish
Lemon-Almond pesto (recipe follows)
1. Preheat oven to 450°.
2. Line large baking dishes (or baking sheets with shallow sides) with heavy-duty aluminum foil and liberally coat with half the oil.
3. Place salmon, skin side down, on baking dishes, and drizzle with remaining oil. Generously season salmon with salt and pepper.
4. Place in oven and roast until salmon has just cooked through, 12 to 15 minutes, depending on thickness. To test doneness, insert fork in thickest part and twist; if flesh flakes easily with just a little resistance, it is done.
5. Serve salmon hot, at room temperature, or chilled, with pesto on the side or spooned on top. Garnish with lemon wedges.
1 tablespoon + 3/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil, divided
1 head garlic, peeled and coarsely chopped
3/4 cup flat-leaf parsley, coarsely chopped
12 ounces unsalted roasted whole almonds
1/2 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice (2-3 medium lemons), plus more to taste
See salt to taste
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
Lemon zest from 1 lemon
1 Heat smaller amount of olive oil in sauté pan over medium-low heat.
2 Add garlic and cook, stirring occasionally, until garlic is lightly golden but not browned, about five minutes. Place garlic in work bowl of food processor.
3 Working in batches if necessary, add parsley, almonds, lemon juice, and remaining olive oil to work bowl of food processor. Pulse until mixture is finally chopped, scraping down sides of work bowl from time to time, until mixture resembles a chunky paste. Add more olive oil if necessary.
4 Taste pesto and adjust seasoning by adding salt and pepper. Stir in lemon zest.
5 Place in airtight container and refrigerate up to two days. Bring to room temperature and stir before serving.
Chocolate-Dipped Strawberries with Whipped Cream
A quality white or milk chocolate can be substituted for the dark.
24 large fresh strawberries, preferably with stems, rinsed and dried completely
12 ounces good-quality dark chocolate
2 teaspoons vegetable shortening
3/4 cup heavy whipping cream
3 tablespoons granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
1 Line baking sheets with waxed paper. Place chocolate and shortening in heavy saucepan over very low heat or in double boiler. Stir frequently until chocolate has melted and mixture is smooth. Remove from heat.
2 Holding each strawberry by the stem end, dip into melted chocolate. Place on prepared baking sheets and allow to cool at room temperature for 25 minutes. Keep cool or chilled until ready to serve.
3 Less than an hour before serving, place whipping cream, sugar, and almond extract in large bowl and beat with electric mixer until soft but firm peaks form. Cream will double in volume, so work in batches if necessary. Cover with plastic wrap, and keep chilled until ready to use. Serve strawberries with dollop of whipped cream on the side for dipping.
Source: “Do it For Less! Weddings” by Denise Vivaldo
Jlife food Editor Judy Bart Kancigor is the author of “Cooking Jewish” (Workman) and “The Perfect Passover Cookbook” (an e-book short from Workman), a columnist and feature writer for the Orange County Register and other publications and can be found on the web at www.cookingjewish.com.